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Are Indians Ready for Covid-19 Shots? Spreading Anti-Vaccine Movement May Deter People, Warns Study

Representative image.

Representative image.

The study said that sixty one per cent of Indians are skeptical about Covid-19 vaccine even if it is available in 2021. Ten per cent say they won't take the shot.

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Sneha Mordani

Political parties are joining the free vaccine bandwagon, but are Indians keen on getting the shot against Covid-19? A survey done by LocalCircles finds that as many as 61% respondents among 25,000 respondents are skeptical.

Sixty one per cent of 8,312 respondents said they are "skeptical about the Covid-19 vaccine and will not rush to take it in 2021 even if it is available". Only 12% respondents said to "get vaccinated and go back to living pre-Covid lifestyle", while 25% said they will "get vaccinated but still won't go back to pre-Covid lifestyle", and 10% said they "won't take it at all in 2021".

The survey was conducted to know the tentative perception of peoples’ reaction when the Government takes Covid-19 vaccine to its people. It also sought to know peoples’ current behaviour facing Covid-19 threats, and for how long will they continue to endure the suffering from the pandemic. The survey received over 25,000 responses from over 225 districts of India.

With the majority of Indians not sure about the vaccine, would we then say that the Anti-Vax movement was gaining pace in India? Professor Anant Bhan, a Bioethics expert says, "This indicates that there is a trust issue with regards to ongoing vaccine development and delivery plans, perhaps related to safety and efficacy, given the rush of developing the vaccines. This concern is perhaps accentuated by the anti-vaccine movement and the (mis)information spread by them through social media platforms."

Professor Peter Hotez, a renowned vaccinologist, says the Anti-Vax movement could pick pace in India as well. "I think we can all agree on the importance of promoting pro-vaccine messages in the government and private sector. But I also have the view that we need to take this one step further. I am worried about a dramatic expansion we've seen in the anti-vaccine movement in America, now expanding into an anti-science movement spreading disinformation. It’s also globalising to include European capitals and could spread to India and elsewhere. For that reason, I believe that beyond just promoting pro-vaccine messages we must confront the major offenders who promote anti-science disinformation. Among them is the Russian government flooding social media with anti-vaccine messages and what has been referred to in the scientific literature as "weaponized health communication". Unfortunately, neither the UN agencies nor the G7 or G20 governments have shown any appetite to take measures in this aspect."

A recent study published by the Lancet done by the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) has lambasted social media companies for allowing the anti-vaccine movement to remain on their platforms. The report's authors noted that social media accounts held by so-called 'anti-vaxers' have increased their following by at least 7·8 million people since 2019.

"The decision to continue hosting known misinformation content and actors left online 'anti-vaxers' ready to pounce on the opportunity presented by coronavirus," stated the report. The CCDH warned that the growing anti-vaccine movement could undermine the roll-out of any future vaccine against CovidD-19.

The report noted that 31 million people follow anti-vaccine groups on Facebook, with 17 million people subscribing to similar accounts on YouTube. The Anti-Vax movement, the Lancet says, is on the rise in many countries.

The survey done by LocalCircles also sought to know if people are keen on living with restrictions until the infections die down. As many as 8,496 citizens participated, of which 38% said they are “willing to live the Covid-19 way of living for as long as it takes”, while 23% said they are “already tired of the restrictions”. While 14% respondents said “till December 31, 2020” and “till March 31, 2021,” 6% said “till June 30, 2021”, 2% said “till Sep 30, 2021”, and 3% said “till Dec 31, 2021”.

Sixty three per cent citizens feel they can easily sustain the post-Covid way of living with restrictions till March 31, 2021.


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